By Mallory Hisler
Surprised is the best way Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, assistant professor of journalism and media arts, said she could describe how she felt when she was told she won the 3rd Annual BU Diversity Award.
The award recognizes faculty and staff who strengthen and promote diversity through their work and service.
Moody-Ramirez is the adviser for the National Association of Black Journalists’ Baylor chapter and Diverse Verses, a multicultural poetry and spoken word group. She was with her family Wednesday at Portraits, a youth drama group gathering, when the award was announced.
“I was surprised and very happy. It made my year,” Moody-Ramirez said. “It was great because my family was there and excited for me.”
She said she was told she had been nominated, but never expected to receive the award.
Robert Darden, associate professor in the department of journalism, public relations and new media, was the first Diversity Award recipient and is one of Moody-Ramirez’s colleagues.
“She is unfailingly pleasant and upbeat. We all love her,” he said. “The students give her high ratings and her classes are always full.”
While he was excited when he won the award, Darden said he was more proud when Moody-Ramirez was given the honor because of her on-going work and research with the issue of diversity.
“She’s very worthy. I’m just thrilled,” Darden said. “[She deserves it] because her work — both [in her] scholarly and personal life — is devoted to working with diversity.”
He described some of her work as an evaluation of media coverage of minorities, and said it brought disparities in coverage to the attention of various networks.
Darden said Moody-Ramirez followed two stories of college students that went missing, one who was white and one who was African-American.
According to the research, the white student got significantly more coverage than the student of color, he said.
“I think that they [the networks that were presented with her research] were stunned. We’ve got to do a better job,” Darden said. “The only way dialogue can happen is if there is information presented in a reasonable and verifiable way, and that’s what she does.”
Moody-Ramirez said she felt the award validated her research.
“It means that people take my work seriously,” she said.
Lexi English, an administrative associate in International Student and Scholar Services as well and chair of the Baylor University Campus Diversity Committee — which gives out the award — said what the committee looks for in nominees is rather simple.
“We are looking for people that are promoting diversity above and beyond what they need to do,” English said. “And that’s what she does.”
English said selecting Moody-Ramirez seemed the right choice, because her work aligned with what the committee was trying to do.
“When we got Dr. Moody’s recommendations by colleagues from across campus, it was pretty clear,” English said. “She presents lectures and writes on diversity, and does a number of other things to promote diversity.”
English has served on the committee since 2008, and took over as chair in 2010 — the first year the committee gave the award.
“We encourage the university to be diversity-minded. We give grants to organizations that do things to promote it,” she said. “We want all of our students to see that there’s more going on outside the Baylor Bubble.”
The committee is funded by the Office of the President, and gave out $9,500 to 13 different organizations this year, not including Moody-Ramirez’s $500 cash prize.
Moody-Ramirez said while there is still more to be done, she sees Baylor making strides to accomplish diversity, which she said encompasses gender, age, race and disabilities.
“Baylor’s definitely making progress,” Moody-Ramirez said. “Our interim department chair, Dr. [Sara] Stone, is a woman. As I look all around campus I see changes, like women in the administration and more racial diversity in students.”
Moody-Ramirez said her goals now are continuing to research and write about diversity, and finishing her final year of tenure-track.
As a promoter of diversity, she had plenty of advice for students.
“I think it’s important that people seek out diversity,” she said. “You have to be open-minded. You have to put yourself out there.”